Hammerli model 100 free pistol.
This report covers:
I had planned to test the Air Venturi Avenger for accuracy on high power today, but I woke up with a froggy throat and flem in my lungs. I took Oregamax which kills stuff like this in 24 hours, but I’m still draggin’. So I thought I would update you with an older report that I am resurrecting — the .22 rimfire Hammerli 100 free pistol. Today we will learn about how updated ammunition makes everything old new again.
First my apologies for not using the umlaut (two dots that change the pronunciation of the letter) over the letter “a” in the name Hammerli. Those who speak and read German know this Swiss firm uses an a with an umlaut in their name. I could spell it Haemmerli, which is the correct way when you don’t have the ability to write an umlaut but then a lot of other folks would get confused. So in this series it’s just going to be Hammerli.
Parts 1 through 3 are worth a read, but a quick recap is this — I have wanted a free pistol since first reading about them in the 1950s. And the Hammerli 100 that swept the podium (gold, silver and bronze) at the Olympics in 1948 and 1952 is the poster-child of free pistols the world over. After Hammerli changed hands, their venerable model 33 free pistol became the model 100.
The Hammerli 100 swept the podium at the 1948 Olympics in London and the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki.
These pistols cost over $2,000 new today and a large fraction of that for a nice one that’s used. There’s nothing free about them! Free refers to the design parameters of the pistol. The pistol must be held in one hand, only, and no other body part may touch it while shooting. The design of the grips is unrestricted, other than they cannot extend back beyond the hand. They can wrap around your hand and hold you so securely that you have to shake hands with the pistol to get into the grip. The sights must be non-optical and lasers are not permitted. Other than that plus the need to be safe, these guns are fairly free from restrictions.
The barrel length is unrestricted. The barrel on my pistol is 11-1/8-inches long and is octagonal. They did come in other lengths, but each length has a different weight associated with it and a different balance. The weight of the gun is unrestricted. This is a pistol built for just one purpose — shooting the highest score in a 60-shot offhand match at 50 meters in two hours. Compared to a free pistol a 10-meter air pistol has a greater number of physical restrictions that limit the design.
The Hammerli has a Martini action, which is generically called a falling block. The breech block is pivoted at the rear and drops in the front to allow a single cartridge to be loaded. On the left side of the action is a lever that moves down to set the trigger.
The action remains open (breech block down so you can see into the breech) when the gun is uncocked. A lever beneath the grip is pushed back to raise the breech block and cock the striker. If you want to uncock the action, this lever has a locking tab built into its back. Restrain the main lever and push the locking tab forward and the breech block will lower under the striker spring tension. Once the block is all the way down, push on the back of the locking tab (towards the muzzle) and the extractor slides back, removing the cartridge from the chamber.
The breech remains open as long as the pistol isn’t loaded. When you load a cartridge, a lever under the grip is pushed forward to raise the breech and cock the striker. But the pistol will still not fire until the trigger is set by pushing down on the lever seen here on the left.
A lever beneath the grip is pushed back to raise the breech block and cock the striker. If you want to uncock the action, this lever has a locking tab built into its back. Restrain the main lever and push the locking tab forward and the breech block will lower under the striker spring tension. Once the block is all the way down, push on the back of the locking tab (towards the muzzle) and the extractor slides back, removing the cartridge from the chamber.
Pull this lever back (to the left) to close the breech block and cock the striker. Push forward on the tab (arrow) to unlock the lever and uncock the action. Push the lever all the way forward to move the cartridge extractor.
Back to 2024
We’re back to today and the issue I had testing the pistol back in April of 2016 was it wouldn’t chamber some of the ammunition I tried to use. So why this Part 4 today? Because I recently discovered ammunition that will work in the pistol. And this ammo is now available. It’s just a matter of testing to find out what works best.
This photo shows why some ammo (the two cartridges on the left) worked and other ammo (the two on the right) didn’t.
A couple things
I knew in 2016 why the ammo was an issue. The pistol’s barrel is rifled right to the end of the chamber. There is no leade (tapered rifling that allows full-bodied bullets to enter the rear of the barrel) into the rifling. I could have had that rectified easily enough by a gunsmith. The pistol’s grips are also ever-so-slightly too large for my hands to hold comfortably. The trigger is slightly too much of a reach for my fingers. I could have rectified that as well with a wood rasp and wood putty. But you don’t paint flames behind the wheel wells of a $100,000 1963 Corvette split-window coupe and you don’t modify a Hammerli 100 free pistol. What you do is find ammunition that works. There was an ammo shortage in the US in 2016 but that is over. So I looked and found some.
Now that .22 ammo is available in the U.S. again, I was able to find three more cartridges that will chamber in my Hammerli pistol — Eley Target, CCI Long Target and CCI CB Long.
From the left, CCI Long Rifle Standard Speed that does not chamber, and Eley Target, CCI Long Target and CCI CB Long that all do. Looking at the slight differences between the two long rifle cartridges on the left you can see how tight the Hammerli’s chamber and bore are.
Twenty-two long cartridges have the same length case as long rifle cartridges but their 29-grain bullets are shorter. The CB Long can be shot indoors and produces 32 foot-pounds of muzzle energy, so the rubber mulch box is perfect to stop it. The Eley Target is made for target shooting and the CCI Long Target is a cartridge I never heard of before searching this time. It looks like I have some fun shooting and testing awaiting me. And there may be many more cartridges from which to choose, once I find out what’s out there.
Benjamin Franklin said, “Make haste slowly” which is what I did. It took several years for the ammunition situation to improve in the US, and now that it has I can test my dream target pistol once again.
Today we have seen the effect of timing on your shooting game. Now is a great time to own one of history’s finest target pistols.